Arts, Culture & Media

Audio diary of a tour of Tibet

I went on my first music tour in China in 2004 and then went on another in 2005 with the Sparrow Quartet. It was after our 2005 trip that we caught the attention of the American Ambassador as well as the head of the Educational Exchange program who thought we might be the right group to lead an American cultural exchange to Tibet. One of my challenges was my faith in the teachings of the Dalai Lama which made me feel conflicted about having the privilege to go there while he could not. And I wanted to have fun too. When we started engaging with the folks who met us at the airport, I felt an instinct to connect with these people. Our first show is going to be tomorrow night at a high school. [music clip.] the Chinese Authorities asked us for our setlists six months in advance of the shows, even though we didn't know who we would be playing for. Christian gospel songs were approved, and blues. The Chinese authorities were not threatened by our song choices. We went to many different types of monasteries�the colors, the foods, everything was alive, the energy was beautiful. I came out of a room where everyone was chanting and these three Tibetan pilgrims were standing there, and they were staring at me. And I said hello in English and then in Chinese, neither which registered, so I didn't know enough Tibet to communicate. So I started to sing to them. And they giggled and then they got in close to my face to feel my breathe. And then I asked them if they wanted to sing along. Tibetan folk music is extremely interesting, there are very interesting notes which they are trained to be able to hit. Our last night in Lhasa, we were asked to play music in our hotel by the restaurant owner. I immediately knew anything would go, there were so many types of people. By the end of the night, everyone was breaking out into song�even an Italian man started singing. The trip to Tibet and the music I was exposed to there�it gave our group a sense of solidarity and a reason to make music together. After that trip, we knew we would start making a new brand of music.

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